LOS ANGELES–A coalition of human rights activists will mobilize at the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles (6300 Wilshire blvd. Los Angeles, 90048) on March 24 to demand the release of a 15 year-old Kurdish girl jailed in Turkey for 8 years on charges of terrorism.
The demonstration, set to begin at 2pm, is being organized by the United Human Rights Council in conjunction with the Armenian Youth Federation, ARF Shant Student Association, American Kurdish Information Network, Kurdish American Youth Organization and Kurdish Community of Southern California.
“Turkey’s Kurds today are experiencing the same oppression, subjugation and mistreatment that the Armenians faced a century ago under Ottoman rule,” explained Shirnian. “We have built a strong coalition with Armenian and Kurdish youth groups throughout the country and are standing united against Turkey’s human rights violations, especially the political repression and imprisonment of innocent children.”
Berivan was found guilty of “crimes on behalf of an illegal organization” after prosecutors alleged she had hurled stones and shouted slogans at a demonstration in the south-eastern city of Batman in October 2009.
She is among a growing number of Kurdish youth being tried and jailed in Turkey on charges of terrorism. The prosecutions come amid increased political tension in the Muslim country as it faces a fierce backlash from an impoverished Kurdish minority outraged over government sponsored terror and oppression.
“With over 2,600 minors serving time in Turkish prisons, the recent arrest of Berivan comes as no surprise,” said UHRC chairperson Sanan Shirinian. “Kurdish children are being systematically imprisoned for merely singing their native songs, peacefully voicing concerns within their communities or simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Though the Kurds represent the largest linguistic minority in Turkey, comprising approximately 20% of the population, they have been subject to methodical oppression since the 1920’s.
“The Turkish government and military have been oppressing the Kurdish minority for decades, subjecting them to poverty, denying them their human rights, banning their political parties, and waging a brutal war on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK),” said Shirinian.”These injustices should not go unnoticed and the perpetrators should be made to account for their repressive policies.”
The PKK has been fighting for equal rights and liberation in the southeast of Turkey since 1984. Turkey characterizes their struggle for freedom as terrorism and has dealt with it as such, clamping down on the country’s Turkish population and using military force and counter-insurgency techniques to destroy the organization.
The government recently announced steps to reconcile with Kurds by expanding greater cultural rights in an effort to end the conflict that has led to the disappearance and death of thousands of Kurds. Those steps, which include cosmetic reforms and pledges for equality, have been criticized by Turkey’s Kurds as hollow.
“Berivan’s arrest and prosecution come as a direct result of those hollow reforms,” said UHRC activist Nora Kayserian, noting that her arrest came at a demonstration against a government ban in December of the only Kurdish political party in the country, the Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP).
The forced closure of the party and the subsequent late-night arrest of some 60 Kurdish political leaders sent shock-waves throughout the country, sparking weeks of demonstrations and violent clashes across Turkey.
“Turkey claims to be a country devoted to democracy, yet principles of democracy are not implemented,” added Kayserian. “The cycle of oppression committed against the Kurds is clear evidence that Turkey is far from being a democratic state..”
The United Human Rights Council (UHRC) is a committee of the Armenian Youth Federation. By means of action on a grassroots level the UHRC works toward exposing and correcting human rights violations of governments worldwide, and aims to foster dialogue and collaboration between peoples who share this common vision. More information can be obtained by emailing: [email protected]